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Noteworthy News

A pearl of a peach goes to China * Lab to support dinoflagellate research * Coastal waters, wildlife are focus of new center * Video system delivers info in new ways * Barthalmus to head Academic Programs * Martinez named Latino adviser * Web site provides food for thought * Shuttle carries student’s research * New business officer named * Partnership with USDA grows with opening of new facilities * USDA aids in waste management research * Student ambassadors spread the word * Broad, Fox tour Western N.C.

A pearl of a peach
goes to China

It seems that Dr. Dennis Werner, who just happens to breed peaches, has a friend, Dr. Henry Yang, who just happens to love peaches. When Werner let Yang sample a new peach variety he had developed, Yang really liked the new variety.

Yang, a plant pathologist who works in Research Triangle Park and whose doctorate came from North Carolina State University, liked the new variety so much, he suggested that Werner ship some peaches to Hong Kong, where Yang’s family lives.

It seems all the Yangs are fruit lovers. Indeed, the Hong Kong Yangs like peaches so much, they travel to South Korea each year just for the harvest of a peach variety grown there that they consider particularly tasty. So that’s how 20 boxes of North Carolina peaches ended up in Hong Kong in early August.

China Pearl peaches are sweet and sugary.Coincidentally and appropriately, Werner calls his new variety China Pearl. When Yang suggested the Hong Kong shipment as a sort of test run to see if there might be a market for North Carolina peaches in Hong Kong, Werner enlisted the aid of Dr. Barclay Poling, coordinator of N.C. State’s Specialty Crops Program. The Specialty Crops Program provided boxes designed to protect peaches and filled them with China Pearl peaches from the Sandhills Research Station and the program’s test market orchard at the Cunningham Research Station in Kinston. China Pearl peaches ripen in early August, and that’s when they left Raleigh-Durham International Airport, on a Tuesday. They arrived in Hong Kong three days later.

“The fruit arrived in good shape, with little spoilage,” Werner says. “They (the Yangs) liked the color, shape and size, but they didn’t think they compared in quality to fresh-picked fruit.”

 Werner, Poling and the China Pearl peachesSo the results of this experiment in international marketing were inconclusive. Werner and Poling demonstrated that China Pearl peaches can be shipped successfully to the Orient. While their “buyers” (the Yangs) found the fruit only acceptable, their standards may be considerably higher than those of some other potential buyers.

More successful but less exotic was a separate China Pearl marketing effort. The Specialty Crops Program supplied China Pearl peaches to Wellspring Grocery stores in Raleigh and Durham. The peaches, which have white flesh, were a hit at the Wellspring stores. Because of their low acid content, China Pearl peaches are sweet and sugary. White flesh, low-acid peaches tend to be favored in Oriental and Hispanic cultures, which is one reason Werner and Poling were excited about the Hong Kong experiment.

So while there may yet be exotic markets for China Pearl, it appears there may also be a market for the new variety here at home.

—Dave Caldwell

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Fighting Pfiesteria:
Lab to support research

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences researchers now have the resources to more quickly and accurately identify Pfiesteria piscicida, the toxic microbe that preys on fish in Mid-Atlantic coastal waters. A new research laboratory, in which Dr. JoAnn Burkholder will study the dinoflagellate, was dedicated in August.

The 3,400-square-foot facility will provide eight times the capacity the scientist previously had for testing water samples and five times the previous capacity for growing Pfiesteria toxins for laboratory analysis.

The facility will boost water sample testing capacity by eight times.The new lab’s improved safety features include a sophisticated alarm system that monitors air quality and equipment performance. Burkholder, professor of aquatic botany and marine sciences, and her colleagues will be able to deliver results to state regulatory agencies within 24 hours.

“This lab will allow researchers to evaluate more water samples and will speed testing,” said Dr. Jim Oblinger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

It will serve as the central testing site for Pfiesteria samples from North Carolina, Florida, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

Under a new five-state agreement, water samples from fish kills, fish disease events (also called slow kills), and waters prone to Pfiesteria will be sent to N.C. State for evaluation.

“This (laboratory) is a quantum leap forward,” Burkholder said. “The agreement, along with the new lab, allows our staff to respond to potential Pfiesteria outbreaks more promptly than ever before.”

U.S. Sen. Lauch Faircloth, N.C. Sen. Beverly Perdue and N.C. Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources Wayne McDevitt were among those who toured Burkholder’s new lab.

—Andy Fisher

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Coastal waters, wildlife
are focus of new center

Several Atlantic Coast Conference schools dispensed with sporting rivalry in September as they broke ground for a new center designed to enhance the state’s coastal resources.

CMASTNorth Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Carteret Community College have formed the Center for Marine Science and Technology (CMAST), a consortium of research scientists and other experts working to better understand and conserve the North Carolina coastal region and its waters and wildlife.

CMAST is working to improve forecasting of storms and flooding, to prevent fish kills and disease outbreaks, to improve fish stocks and aquaculture production and to implement research-based water-quality education programs.

CMAST will be headquartered in Morehead City.The center will be headquartered in a four-story, 50,000-square-foot building on the community college campus in Morehead City. It is scheduled to open in late 1999.

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So far, and yet so close:
Video system delivers info in new ways

From his office at Fletcher, Dr. Jerry Gibson, a regional agricultural education coordinator, stays in close contact with the high school teachers he serves in North Carolina’s western region. Meanwhile, thanks to communications technology, he’s also able to teach a course in program planning to graduate students as far away as the coast.

Dr. Gibson and his students use the new video systemTo teach the course, Gibson uses a new videoconferencing system that enables the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to deliver research-based information to North Carolinians in new ways.

In the fall semester, the College expanded its 5-year-old interactive videoconferencing capabilities to take advantage of new technology and infrastructure. In addition to a new system installed at N.C. State University, videoconference centers were set up at the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center, where Gibson is stationed, and at the Vernon G. James Research and Extension Center in Plymouth, in the eastern part of the state.

These are the first of seven proposed sites that the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service intends to develop over the next two to three years, according to Dr. Jon Ort, director of the Extension Service.

The sites tap into the North Carolina Information Highway, a vast network that reaches into communities throughout the state. There are 150 similar sites in public institutions throughout North Carolina.

The system expands Extension's ability to offer meetings and courses throughout NCCoupled with an existing link to the North Carolina Research and Education Network, which connects campuses of the state university system, the Information Highway connection enables the Extension Service to hold administrative meetings and offer training and credit courses for its faculty and clientele at more sites throughout the state. And it offers a more flexible program schedule.

Another benefit, says Extension Distance Education Specialist Bob Gregory, is that the system allows researchers and other field-based faculty to communicate more effectively with colleagues based in Raleigh.

For students taking credit courses, the system offers a number of advantages: Those with jobs don’t have to make major scheduling changes to take a course that they otherwise might have to drive hours to attend, and they can hear from guest speakers at any participating site.

— Dee Shore

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Barthalmus to head
Academic Programs

George BarthalmusDr. George Barthalmus, a long-time member of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty, has been named to direct the College’s Academic Programs office.

Barthalmus was appointed associate dean and director of academic programs effective Oct. 12. He has headed the Academic Programs office on an interim basis since October 1997, when Dr. Jim Oblinger, then Academic Programs head, was named dean of the College.

Barthalmus joined the Academic Programs office in 1994 as assistant director. In that position, he served as the Academic Programs liaison to College departments and was involved in to student recruitment, advising, scholars and honors programs, student outcomes, curriculum development, policy enforcement and various outreach activities.

He also served as program director for a Howard Hughes Medical Institute grant now in its seventh year. The grant funds efforts to promote and broaden access to biological education for undergraduates and secondary school students.

Barthalmus came to the Academic Programs office from the Department of Zoology, where he was a professor and undergraduate coordinator. Barthalmus won three North Carolina State University Outstanding Teaching Awards. He also won the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor Award and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Outstanding Adviser Award.

He joined the College faculty in 1970, after earning a doctorate in zoology at Pennsylvania State University.

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Bridging cultures:
Martinez named governor’s adviser

Nolo Martinez and colleague Felipe CabreraWhen N.C. Gov. Jim Hunt decided that the state’s burgeoning Hispanic population should have a more visible role in state government and a seat at the policy-making table, he turned to a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences faculty member with a passionate commitment to that community.

In September, Hunt named Heriberto “Nolo” Martinez the state’s director of Hispanic/Latino Affairs. Among his responsibilities will be guiding the new 15-member Governor’s Council on Hispanic/Latino Affairs. The council has been charged with advising the governor on issues and policies affecting the community; working to improve race and ethnic relations; and promoting cooperation and understanding among the community, the public and local, state and federal governments.

Up until now, there has been nobody ... to focus attention on the population.Until Hunt’s term ends, Martinez will be on leave from his position as a health education specialist with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. He will continue to lead Exten-sion’s own Hispanic/Latino Task Force.

The creation of the College task force, the state advisory council and Martinez’s position come at a time when the North Carolina’s Hispanic population is growing faster than ever before. The population has nearly doubled in this decade, with the U.S. Census Bureau estimating a Hispanic population of 150,000 out of a total population of 7.4 million statewide. Martinez is the link between this population and Hunt.

“Our vision,” says Martinez, “is to unite and integrate Hispanic resources — agencies that serve Hispanic people — to meet the needs of the larger population. Up until now, there has been nobody at the state level who could focus attention on the Hispanic population.”

Martinez comes to his role in tune with the state’s Hispanic population. A native of Puerto Rico, he held a position with the extension service there before pursuing a doctorate in adult education at N.C. State University.

Many of his Extension efforts involved migrant agricultural workers —the vast majority of whom are Hispanic.

He became increasingly aware of the need for a better infrastructure for identifying and meeting the needs of the Hispanic and Latino population.

Many immigrants to the United States face two major obstacles, he says: language and culture. “There is a clash, but in no way does it need to be a fight,” Martinez says. “Rather, it can be an opportunity for growth for all of us.”

— Dee Shore

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Web site provides
food for thought

Eating should be fun, not frightening. But improperly prepared food can be dangerous. Now, thanks to the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, anyone with Internet access can quickly find reliable answers about buying, preparing and preserving food safely.

The Food Safety Information Retrieval System is a gateway to food safety materials from all over the world. The World Wide Web address is

The site covers eggs, meat, poultry, fruits, vegetables, fish and other seafood, and milk and other dairy products. It links to consumer publications and related organizations.

Users can find information on topics such as kitchen safety, cooking temperatures, food labeling and dating, pesticides, food safety after natural disasters, federal regulations and more.

Melissa Taylor, a food safety education and communications specialist in the Department of Food Science, created the site as part of her work toward a master’s degree. Dr. Pat Curtis, a food science Extension specialist, guided Taylor’s efforts.

The site averages more than 3,000 hits per day. The most active day so far was Aug. 31, right after Hurricane Bonnie hit, when there were more than 40,000 visits.

—Alexandra Mordecai

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Out of this world:
Shuttle carries student's research into space

Dr. Christopher Brown, Reathal GearyFor many, October’s Space Shuttle Discovery launch evoked memories of John Glenn’s 1962 orbit around the Earth. But for one North Carolina State University student, the launch was itself the stuff from which memories are made.

While the world focused on Glenn’s return to space, Reathal Geary looked to his future. He was one of a handful of U.S. college students whose experiments were selected to be part of the Discovery mission.

Geary’s goal was to find out whether fractured strands of plant DNA could repair themselves in space. He is shown above (right) with one of his botany instructors, Dr. Christopher Brown, and the hardware that contained his experiment.

The research was part of a larger NASA effort to grow plants on long space flights.Geary’s research was part of a larger effort aimed at helping NASA find ways to grow plants to help clean the air, make potable water and provide food for long space flights. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is playing an increasingly important role in that effort, having established a NASA Specialized Center of Research and Training (NSCORT) for Gravitational Biology. Geary has gained insight into space biology by working in an NSCORT lab and by taking Brown’s undergraduate course.

To teach the Space Biology class, Brown drew upon his own experience. After earning a master’s degree in horticulture and his doctorate in botany from N.C. State, Brown went to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to help set up and run the Plant Space Biology Laboratory. He was there from 1989 to 1996, then returned to his alma mater when N.C. State received a $5 million, 5-year grant to set up NSCORT.

Geary, a former shoe salesman and part-time community college student, says his experience with NSCORT has been “the single most important thing that’s happened to me so far in college.” His sights are now set on graduate school and a career in ecology or environmental law.

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Taking care of business:
New business officer named

As the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ new business officer, Mike Cross has set a broad goal: to enable faculty and staff members to do their jobs better.

Cross joined the College's Business Office in August. He has more than two decades of experience in auditing and financial management for government and private enterprises. Most recently, he served as director of business financial services at California State University in Los Angeles.

Cross is glad to have left behind a time-consuming, nerve-wracking daily commute on Southern California freeways. The drive was a distraction from home and from work — much like financial planning and decision making are to faculty and staff members who struggle with budget codes and reporting procedures.

To streamline the process — to cut that commute, so to speak — Cross is introducing technology that gives decision makers models for better understanding budgeting options. He’s also working to enhance training and make operations smoother and more efficient.

“In the end, I hope that those who manage money will be able to make more informed decisions — they won’t feel boxed into doing things one way,” he says. “And faculty and staff members will be able to spend less time struggling with financial decisions and more time doing research, teaching classes, working in the communities and doing the things they need to do.”

—Dee Shore

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Partnership with USDA
grows with new facility

Group planting chestnut

Chancellor Marye Anne Fox; Dr. Isi Siddiqui, USDA deputy assistant secretary; Dean Jim Oblinger; Gov. Hunt; and Charlie Rawls, USDA general counsel and College alumnus, plant a chestnut tree in recognition of a USDA-N.C. State partnership aimed at protecting American agriculture .
A blight-resistant chestnut tree taking root at N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus stands as a symbol of a new partnership aimed at protecting American agriculture from damaging insects and diseases.

Officials from the university and from the U.S. Department of Agriculture planted the tree during a September ceremony celebrating the opening of the new Center for Plant Health Science and Technology.

The center will coordinate plant health research and the application of findings of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s 13 plant protection and quarantine laboratories. The center’s 30 scientific and technical employees work in the recently completed Partners Building I.

Centennial Campus also will be home to a new USDA eastern regional hub, which will bring 150 APHIS jobs to the campus in 1999.

The hub will anchor a new cluster of biotechnology research and development buildings on the 1,000-acre Centennial Campus.

Gov. Jim Hunt said that having APHIS’ eastern hub on the campus will give federal agriculture policy makers easy access to N.C. State’s pool of scientific talent, a model Cooperative Extension network and the nation’s broadest array of agricultural and animal research laboratories and field research stations.

Said College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Jim Oblinger, “N.C. State’s long-standing relationship with the USDA will continue to grow with the opening of this center. ... This partnership will speed the transfer of scientific discoveries for the benefit of American consumers, growers, importers and exporters.”

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USDA aids in
waste research

A federal grant and a new initiative will help N.C. State University in its efforts to find solutions to animal-waste management challenges faced by farmers and communities throughout the state.

As part of a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the university, N.C. State’s Animal and Poultry Waste Management Center will receive $75,000 to conduct field trials of two promising waste-management technologies. The agreement was announced in mid-August.

The funding will be used to evaluate a system in which effluent flows >from swine production houses to an electric reactor, where it is treated and the solid portions removed. The remaining liquid is filtered through sand before being discharged into a lagoon.

Researchers also will evaluate a method of harvesting duckweed, an aquatic plant that helps remove nutrients and minerals from wastewater.

Funding to study such promising technologies was introduced in the new federal Animal Waste Research Act, which authorizes the USDA to make grants to universities and other institutions for animal waste management research. The legislation was introduced earlier this year by one of North Carolina’s congressmen, Rep. Bob Etheridge of Lillington.

Partnerships such as that forged by the new N.C. State-USDA initiative will be key to reaching effective solutions to waste management challenges, said College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Jim Oblinger, because they “take advantage of our respective strengths and stretch the dollars that fund our research as far as possible.”

— Dee Shore

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Student ambassadors
help spread the word

You and I know how great the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is, but there are some folks who haven’t heard. So three dozen students — known as the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Ambassadors — are out and about, spreading the word.

The ambassadors are an active bunch. They speak at high schools and civic group meetings, help with campus events and alumni activities, and escort and answer questions from prospective students on campus for the Spend-A-Day-at-State program.

“When our best and brightest go out to high schools or to events and give their honest opinions, people listen,” says Sharon Bottcher, program organizer.

The students speak on topics such as “Small Town to Big Campus,” “Not Just Cows, Sows and Plows: Clearing Up Misconceptions About N.C. State,” “N.C.State’s Contributions to the State of North Carolina,” and “Choosing a Major: Choosing Your Future.”

Derek Foster, a senior animal science and pre-vet major from Mocksville, says that being an ambassador has given him the opportunity to meet and work with everyone from prospective students to alumni and has helped him improve his communication and leadership skills.

This is the second year the ambassadors program has been active. Ambassadors must have at least a 3.0 grade point average. This year, 105 students were nominated; 20 were chosen.

Cynthia Eudy, a junior agricultural business management major, says, “I am an ambassador primarily to show the pride that I have in both N.C. State University and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. Being an ambassador has given me the opportunity to meet different people throughout the agriculture industry and allowed me to promote North Carolina agriculture.”

Bottcher, who also serves as assistant director of the College’s Alumni Society, sees other long-term benefits of the program. People who are active in the College while they are students are likely to remain involved after they graduate.

“They’ll serve us as alumni speakers, for example. We know they’ll stay involved,” she says.

If you are interested in having one or more ambassadors speak to your group, contact Sharon Bottcher at (919) 515-7857; fax (919) 515-6980; or email

—Alexandra Mordecai

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Broad, Fox tour
Western N.C.

From left: Extension Director Jon Ort; N.C. State Chancellor Marye Anne Fox; Henderson County Extension Director Joy Staton; Dean Jim Oblinger; UNC President Molly Broad; and Joyce Dugan, chief of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.
Western North Carolina leaders of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service rolled out the red carpet in late September for a historic daylong visit by University of North Carolina President Molly Broad and North Carolina State University Chancellor Marye Anne Fox. The two top administrators were treated to tours of the Mountain Horticultural Crops Research and Extension Center in Fletcher, a demonstration of distance education technology, a visit to the Henderson County Extension center and tours of commercial operations in the area where N.C. State researchers and Extension agents have played a key role.

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